Ultimately, they are welcoming parents who envision a different future for their children by allowing them to develop child-centred approaches alongside critical thinking, collaboration and creativity by bringing different members of society together.
As co-founders of Soul Action, they have worked closely with the Denis Hurley Centre, an inner-city facility which serves the underprivileged of Durban working with the city’s different faith traditions.
“Recent studies show that in order to equip children to thrive in the 21st century, they need to have critical thinking, complex problem solving, determination, flexibility and adaptability.
“We were looking for schools which promote that in the way that they educate their children, in the sense of curriculum, views of teachers, the environment in which they create for education to happen, etc.
“So how do all those things come together in which you create this critical thinking, complex problem solving approach to equip our children to actually be active participants in society? That’s what we’re tackling through our models,” said Phil Bowyer.
Through their travels, they have come across many inspirational approaches within the education system. Rachel Bowyer added: “We did a lot of research before we left for the schools abroad, but one of the real strengths was the passion of the teachers.
“They were passionate about making a difference to the children’s lives, passionate about their subject areas and about seeing each and every child develop.”
For Phil, the collaborative approach with students, teachers and parents is something he would like to instil within the South African education system.
“One of the most striking things for me, particularly in New Zealand, was when you walked into the class, there were children working alone, working in pairs and in small groups, and every single child was on a task - that came from an understanding that we learn in different ways and we learn more together.
“And that came from the teacher’s belief in the child. The teacher believes that every child is capable, creative, intelligent, active in their learning and the environment that they created, gave each child permission to be like that, explore that together by themselves.
“The education was about how could we produce the best possible results that we can and in their context, you do that by working together. When you come from different perspectives, different life experiences, different points of views, when you add that together, it’s all richer.
“It was the uniqueness of all the individuals together which resulted in something much greater and broader. That’s what inspired me.
“When you think of our country, that’s we need, we need to come together, we need to see one another, hear each other.
“We need to dialogue with one another, understand one another and when you do that, it shapes the future,” said Phil.
Originally from the UK, Phil and Rachel Bowyer have lived in South Africa with their son Zac, for the past 12 years.
During that time, they have noticed on a daily basis, the consistent inequality:
“So, the question was how does one address that. Studies suggest that you need to do it from the youngest age possible by creating an environment which is inclusive, collaborative and one which recognises one another’s strengths and sees diversity for what it is, a resource and a benefit. So we thought about what it would be like to create a school which embodies that, embodies inclusion, equality and sees diversity as a tool to be utilised,” said Phil.
The couple hope to reform education in South Africa by taking what they’ve learnt along their travels and contextualising their research into a model.
“So we ask ourselves, what is unique about our culture in SA and how does what we learnt respond to our vision for education in this country?
“What opportunities does the current education system present to do something differently and to revolutionise. And the levels of diversity in SA are so unique and something we can celebrate. We need to come together to dialogue, to explore.
“Most of the models in this country we’ve come along are segregated due to economic status and what we’re proposing isn’t.
“We have to start a new model and approach which will break down economic barriers. We’re passionate about an education system that brings different members of society together so we can start understanding one another,” added Rachel.
A series of talks will be held from August 28 - September 1 in and around Durban, inviting members of the public to hear more about Rachel and Phil’s trip in terms of what they uncovered, as well as their vision for education in KZN.
* For more info on the education talks provided by the Bowyers, visit ww.denishurleycentre.org